Sunday, March 28, 2010

'Faster But Slower'

©Michael Grieve

©Anton Corbijn

I've been asked to do a talk about my work in the place where I was born and bred, Newcastle upon Tyne, sometime in May. I have not been to Newcastle for many years. It is curious that I have been asked to do this talk now at a point when I have been feeling an incredible urge to return to emabark on a subjective body of work about the region. However, I have been thinking what have been the first great influence's on my photography. Asked the question and without hesitation my answer would be music but more specifically the new wave music of my youth that laid the foundations of my creative juices. Long before I enjoyed the pleasures of William Eggleston, Chris Killip, Moriyama, Robert Frank and the like, it was Joy Division who were central to my evolving aesthetic together with my environment, the grey, hard, post industrial landscape of the north, that also influenced Joy Divisions sound. Locked in the wonderful isolation of my bedroom, listening to John Peel, smelling the freshness of static vinyl, I pored over the album covers and inner sleeves, observing every detail, the radical, political, DIY, austere designs often with gritty urban photographs. Joy Division were different as they had a more sophisticated air, mixing inner emotion with the hard exterior of life. For sure this was poetry and the album covers were sheer masterpieces to compliment the music, the lyrics and the passion it transmitted. Still does, more than ever perhaps in my mind. When I reflect on my photography I can see the influence. It is evident that I embrace a photography that has a quiet emotional charge whatever the genre. My own work is emotionally austere I remember thinking that I would like to take a photograph with the same inner emotion as a Joy Division song. Its almost as if I need it to survive in this increasingly sterile world where photography has become almost like animation, digitised with sharp, unreal edges or photoshop(ped) to within an inch of its life.

In 2004 I had the good fortune to meet Tony Wilson, journalist and co founder of Joy Divisions record label, Factory Records. I met him at the ICA in London to do his portrait for a trendy French magazine and where he was conducting a witty self depricating talk about his failures or more specifically about all the things he nearly did but didn't, such as signing The Smiths to Factory. Out of all the philosophy and experience of life I understand only one thing and that is life is fuelled by paradox and when I remember Tony Wilson telling the story of when Martin Hannett, the producer of Unkown Pleasures and Closer, instructed the drummer, Stephen Morris to play 'faster but slower' it only strengthened my conviction.

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